First Impressions of New V5 Drivers
12:24 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story
Over the weekend 3dfx has released a new set of drivers for their Voodoo5 5500 PCI cards, updating to version 1.0.8. Among the enhancements listed were improved RAVE support, QuickDraw (2D) enhancements and greater stability. The drivers now support the Voodoo3 2000 and 3000 cards officially, although several users have reported problems with this configuration such as a loss of 2D acceleration.
The actual update and install was completely painless; it takes 2 reboots to complete the install, as the card firmware is not updated until you open the 3dfx MacTools control panel. There is no option given to save a backup of the old firmware. Upon reboot the card is configured to "Single Chip (Most Compatible)."
Benchmarks of Quake 3 Arena and Unreal Tournament, using methods mentioned in our IMG V5 preview, reveal a 1 to 3 fps slowdown across the board, a minor variance that is within the margin of error. This is not surprising, as Bryan Speece mentioned several times that this update does not contain any speed optimizations, nor may the next.
RAVE support is a mixed bag. Dark Vengeance, a RAVE-only game from Reality Bytes, now works very well -- with minor depth-sorting errors (sky textures showing through walls, etc.); previously it only gave a black screen. However, both Bugdom and Nanosaur from Pangea Software no longer run. We contacted Brian Greenstone about this, and he was puzzled; he could not get them to run either, and has never been able to do so consistently, although 3dfx engineers claim the games should work. Other RAVE-only games such as Quake 1 and Tanaka still do not work, but Q1 support is planned for a future update.
There is no truly reliable way to benchmark 2D support on the G4/500; the old and unsupported MacBench produces unreliable results, and scrolling tests in word processors or Photoshop are too fast to measure accurately. 2D speed of this card seems as robust and blazingly fast as always. The only 2D compatibility issues we've seen mentioned are with older draw applications such as Freehand 3 and VectorWorks, but these were not available for testing.
Deep sleep mode for the G4/500 is still not possible; it results in the same error stating that a PCI card which does not support powering down the PCI bus is installed. This is a terrible shame, as the power-hungry G4 only consumes 4 watts in deep sleep mode, an engineering marvel. Removing the V5 solves this problem.
The addition of hardware MPEG support is mentioned, but I see no change in speed or visual quality; MPEG movies still run rock solid 30 fps at 1280x1024 with no glitches. The benefit of hardware support will most likely show up on slower machines. There is still no sign of DVD support, but this is a step in that direction.
Voodoo5 5500 Preview
Overall, this does not seem to be a must-have update. Speece indicates in several posts on the 3dfxgamers forums that 1.0.9 is testing internally, and they may have another release planned in the near future. In any case it seems that speed optimization of the driver has been shelved while bug fixes are completed. We'll keep testing these new drivers for bugs; watch for a full review of the V5 from IMG in the near future -- we may have some surprises for you. Make sure you leave your comments regarding your own experiences with this driver update here or on our forums.
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